In Late Summer

I enjoy reading garden bloggers who live and garden in the northern parts of North America, Canada, or in Europe. I’m charmed as they describe the crispness in the air as September rolls around or their lament that summer wanes and autumn is upon them, rendering summer a memory. Here in Central Texas, summer is still very much a reality. Sunlight falls differently, that’s for sure, but our afternoon temperatures are still reaching the low to mid 90s, if not higher.

Oh sure, I can post about blooming things in December and probably even in January, and I’m certain that those same gardeners experience a tiny twinge of envy of my long growing season as they’re locked into snow and ice.  But the promise of a soft and cool autumn is something I can only dream about for now–it’s my turn to feel wistful because the “seasonal” change doesn’t happen in my Austin garden.

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But is that so?  No matter how summer-like our September days are, there are flowers that bloom and shrubs that berry in response to seasonal changes, even if we humans only recognize, and therefore complain about, the heat and lack of rain.  There are a number of native and well-adapted  plants in my Texas garden that started blooming at the peak of summer’s heat and continue floriferous action, and others that come into their glorious own as the hot, dry months drag on (and on…) in August and September.

These stalwarts remind me why I love this place.

The burgundy Red Ruby RunnerAlternanthera polygoinoides,

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…which is part of the biological filtration of my ponddefinitively runs amok during the blasting heat.

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That which sprawls receives no water from the ground, though I’m sure it’s siphoning it out of the pond.  It receives sun until about 3pm and never wilts.

The pretty yellows of the Mexican or Yellow Butterfly Vine, Mascagnia macroptera, began blooming in the heat of July/August and will remain in bloom until the flowers metamorph into the namesake seed pods.

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An adored plant of mine, the hybrid white Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea, flowers in shade or full sun,

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…and provides for honeybees,

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…and native bees, like this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee,

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…and butterflies and moths, like this Small Pink Moth, Pyrausta inornatalis.

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This herbaceous perennial has reseeded itself in my garden for many years.  In mild winters, it’ll bloom throughout, but most years it’s knocked down with the the first hard freeze.  Returning in spring, the plant focuses on foliage growth, until ramping up the flowering in August.  The pollinator-favorite blooms continue until winter’s first blast.

Its scarlet kin, the red Tropical SageSalvia coccinea,  also picks up bloom speed during the dog days, but doesn’t always return after a cold winter.

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The rich blooms are welcome in the heat and during the autumn months.

Lindheimer’s Senna,  Senna lindheimeriana, adds its happy, sunshine voice reliably each August.

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Outrageous purple berries form on the American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, 

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…ripening in August for the birds.  Purplicious-ness continues during the broil and toast of late summer with the bloom-up of the native Drummond’s RuelliaRuellia drummondiana,

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…and the cultivar, Katie’s Dwarf Ruellia.

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Of a more delicate hue, the new-to-my-garden Branched Foldwing, Dicliptera brachiata is dainty, but apparently tough in the Texas heat.

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A few Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii, blooms have opened up for fuzzy fall business before things actually cool off, much to the appreciation of the tiny native bee (Perdita ignota?) working the bloom.

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Intermingling with the native Gregg’s Mistflower is another groundcover, the non-native Leadwort PlumbagoCeratostigma plumbaginoides.

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Bright blue flowers and attractive foliage thrive in July and August heat, reflecting the clear blue Texas sky as fall approaches.

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Emerging seemingly overnight at the end of August/first of September, I always forget that they’re part of my early fall garden–the dramatic and ridiculously red, Red Spider Lily, or perhaps I should use the other name, Surprise LilyLycoris radiata,

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I should have taken a wider shot, because you could then see the cracks in the soil adjacent to where that gorgeous thing popped out of the ground.

Preparing to greet the migrating Monarch butterflies, Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, dons its cauliflower hat in August, though it’s considered a “fall” bloomer.

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The pinnacle of blooming coincides with later cooler temps and more butterfly action.

With its tiny, pink florets and bright red berries that follow, PigeonberryRivina humilis, keeps its cool for a long flowering and berrying season.

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Especially lush and welcome during the hottest of the hot, mine usually begins blooming mid-summer and will remain in bloom-n-berry mode until the first near-frosts in November.

Very few perennials flower for as long and prolifically as does the Turk’s Cap shrub, Malvaviscus arboreus. 

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As if it knows that September heralds the end of flowering season, Turk’s Cap throws out masses of petite, crimson flowers and fruits for a couple of months, preparing for nectaring by migrating hummingbirds and Monarchs and munching by birds prior to winter.

This is the first year that I’ve grown Garlic Chives,  Allium tuberosum, but am  loving their cool white in my garden.

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Blogging buddy, the fabulous TexasDeb of austinagrodolce, gifted to me several clumps of this perennial plant and culinary favorite last August.

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Along with this gardener, the bees are happy about this plant too.  Garlic fall honey, anyone??

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All of these plants thrive during the downside of our summer months, as the change in sunlight, though not a fall in temperature, suggests a seasonal lumber toward autumn. Hardy in tough conditions, none need much water or care.

September: the time when most of the Northern Hemisphere cools and readies for autumn, preparing for the end of the blooming cycle for the year. Here in Central Texas we won’t experience that chill for a little while yet.  September blooming and berrying are the harbingers of change–the beginning of our second spring–the autumn flowering that is our reward for July, August and, at least in some part, of September.

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32 thoughts on “In Late Summer

  1. You have a lot in bloom despite prolonged heat, humidity and no rain, which together really bash plants about. Hopefully the nights start to cool a little for you. The only thing that bugs me about summer is hot nights

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    • As I was finishing the post, it rained for the first time since early June–nice! It’s very humid here and that’s the tough part, plus, we don’t really cool down at nights. Soon though, the weather will change and it will be quite lovely.

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  2. Mike and Matt (besides having clever avatars) both hit nails on the head – despite their piquant stems, garlic chive flowers are total bee magnets. And I agree it is the fact that the nights never really cool back off that (for me) makes the heat of the day intolerable. I’ll accept a bit of a bake in the afternoon if I can go back out after the sun sets and enjoy a cool evening.

    So happy to report from the “morning after” that much of our area got measurable rain. You could almost hear the huge sigh of relief today in response. We still have some hot days to get through, but the dust has been washed off and everything in the area (as opposed to the fortunate few garden plants) is benefitting from a thorough watering. Go September!

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    • Go September, indeed! I don’t quite know how much rain I got, but Camp Mabry received and inch and I’m not too far away–regardless, it was a relief. And many thanks again for the chives–the bees and I love them!

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  3. What an interesting selection for September. That’s a very nice white salvia. I’ve just been taking some cuttings of my Salvia greggii and I love the fruity smell as you work. Your red spider lily is gorgeous, such wonderful annual surprise.

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  4. Interesting to see how many plants are flowering in your heat & drought climate. Even more intriguing is how some species not matter where they grow they’ll flower/set fruits at the same time: Ceratostigma – also in flower here and Callicarpa – also with fruits.
    I really like the Salvia coccinea in its white form; I like them all Salvias but mostly are purple or red so a white one feels somehow refreshing!

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    • Isn’t is fascinating that plants in very different places still berry or bloom at roughly the same time. I like that white S. coccinea very much. Sometimes I feel like I’ve overused it, then I see a patch alive with bees and butterflies and I’m so glad I have so much for them to pollinate.

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    • I noticed that you passed along a C. coelestinum to Beth at Plant Postings and I commented that it is a favorite of mine! Nice! And yes, TexasDeb, who gave me the chives warned me in full about their aggressiveness-I’m prepared!!

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  5. If your Bees feast on garlic chives, what does the honey taste like Tina and what happens in January do you then have a cooler period, interesting to read how your seasons are so different from ours.

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    • Ha! Because the bees have lots to choose from, I don’t think that the honey will taste TOO much like garlic, but imagine if it was a monoculture situation–might be very interesting honey. The only thing I’ve noticed about the honey is that “fall” honey is richer, thicker and darker than the “spring” honey.

      Our winters are quite variable–sometimes very mild–absolutely no freeze at all and sometimes many freezes. Most of the time, somewhere in between. It used to be that reliably, our first hard freeze was in December, the last in March, maybe even April. With climate change, the first freeze is usually later and the last freezes seem to run the gamut–really late, or not at all after February. Historically, our coldest average temperatures are in February. It’s anyone’s guess for this year, though we’re in an El Nino, so the predictions are for a wet and cooler winter. An interesting article about the developing strong El Nino: http://blog.chron.com/weather/2015/07/strong-el-nino-developing-what-it-means-for-texas/

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      • Thanks for the link Tina, we had a TV programme over here a couple of weeks ago ‘The Big Blue’ reporting live from Monterey Bay, the wildlife due to El Nino was absolutely amazing. Reading your link, I expect you are really hopeful of the predicted increased rain for your area.

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  6. Sorry, can’t feel sorry for you and your Texas weather! Not only aren’t we in the UK having summer weather in September, we are not even having autumn weather. More like early winter with the cold mornings and nights and rainy days. Yesterday and today have seen a respite, and a feeling of the warmth fall days can have, but rain and cold are on the horizon….

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  7. I love that little pink moth. I saw one for teh first time a couple of weeks ago and did a second take. At first I thought it was a mutant autumn sage flower. Very cute. I am looking forward to cooler temperatures and was SO grateful for the rain this week. The quality of mercy …

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    • Isn’t it pretty? They’ve been very common this year and on a variety of blooms. Yes, the rain was glorious. It always amazes me how everything–plants, birds, insects and people perk up with the first fall rain after summer’s long stretch.

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  8. Love the purpleiciousness – especially the Beautyberry fruit. They look like polished jewels more than berries. I also grow the Ceratostigma. Here it starts to bloom in August but is at its best in September and even October, so I had thought it likes cool weather.

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    • Aren’t those berries something?? They look fake to me, but the birds love them. Very interesting about the ceratostigma–that it blooms when it’s cool. I’ve found that in blasting sun, they won’t bloom as much. I think the Texas sun is just too harsh.

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